How insecurity undermines SME growth
In faraway Bangladesh, Mohammed Yunus taught us how we can grant prosperity to our beleaguered nation.
Bangladesh, a nation of 161.6 million people who got independence from Pakistan by revolution only in December 1971 was lifted out of poverty in 1983. Yunus, that year established the Grameen Bank that granted loans to the poor without either collateral or interest.
Fueled by the belief that credit is a fundamental human right, Yunus gave soft loans to develop small and medium enterprises which lifted Bangladesh to the prosperous middle-income group of countries. Yunus, an economics professor noted how credit had lifted Europe and North America into prosperity. Through the Grameen- like micro-lending more than 100 countries worldwide have liberated their peoples from poverty and want but excluding Nigeria. As a banker to the poor, Yunus was the recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace. he has received numerous other awards for his creative ideas and endeavours, including the World Food Prize in 1994.
Sadly, Nigeria is deeply into social unrest, to the extent that many call it full-scale war with Boko Haram in Borno, Yobe, and Taraba and with bandits in Sokoto, Zamfara, Benue, Plateau, and Nasarawa states. Now, insecurity has caused the Beekeeping Extension Society to move the production of honey from Kaduna where a full-scale religious war is going on at the moment. The production of honey has been moved to Kano, Gombe, and Bauchi states. The representatives of the UN in a press statement announced that it spends $1.5 billion yearly on the humanitarian crises in Nigeria. In the first half of this year, bandits have killed 1,126 villagers. A commissioner on the Federal Character Commission from Taraba state Alhaji Abubakar Armiyau, attributed insecurity to injustice in the polity. Herders and farmers have clashed at Orire Local Government Area of Oyo, rendering agriculture impossible to be practised, leading to food scarcity in the future. More than 78,120 farmers abandoned farms in Borno with bandits abducting a bride and nursing mother in Sokoto.
All these led the former minister of Agriculture and chair of Arewa Consultative Forum, Chief Audu Ogbeh to enjoin the North to make peace among themselves or they will lose the North. This unrest has created palpable fear among farming families across the country, providing a major obstacle in the way of the agrarian masses in Nigeria. Upon the outcry, Nigerian troops just expelled terrorists in Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa State with 410 suspects surrendering and bomb-making factory destroyed. Meanwhile, most rural dwellers in Nigeria, especially those from the North where these killings are taking place, are predominantly farmers. So, the most pervasive economic activity is being put on hold.
Then, there are the bandits, a uniquely Nigerian terrorist group known for precision attacks even under curfews and lockdown. We can see internally displaced persons all over the place, where women use their bodies to beg for food, and men and children are ravaged by malnutrition. We are victims of Nigerian terrorist groups who have taken up arms against the state. When insecurity destroys the livelihood of a community, its inhabitants die twice, first, they lose businesses which are the means of their livelihood. Second, they physically die. Thus, internally displaced persons are waiting for their second death. Sadly, we are still running a country where people bestowed with public trust cannot be held to account. And this is where internally generated revenue grows from, without reference to its sources and how the collection impacts society, despite this being a trending index of good governance. This is why SMEs are dying. Internal revenue officials are making life a living hell for small businesses.
It is definitely wrong for a country to persist in conducting governance in this manner. Insecurity, be it communal or religious as in Southern Kaduna, have a negative impact on small and medium scale enterprises. It also has a deleterious effect on every level of economic activity and the most vulnerable among individuals. This is why public policy cannot just focus on physical reconstruction of conflict invested zones, but also focusing on the restoration of the economy of the area. Indeed, insecurity has driven many entrepreneurs to racketeer and organized crime or becoming accessories to bandits as a result of bad government policies. The implication of the above is that entrepreneurs who have expended their wealth in order to increase it, become poor and dangerous to society if the policy isn’t directed to the common good.
Indeed, insecurity is exacerbated, when rent-seeking, which is usually the case of ineffective policy design and application, becomes the main driver of private enterprise, as it is in Nigeria of today. Presently, Nigeria uses ineffective institutions to curb such tendencies, which is why insurgency festers. despite concerted efforts to stop it. However, where personality cults determine the nature and direction of public policy, effective institutions are hard to build. But sold institutions are essential in directing the course of development in making sure economic agents behave in a set order. The toxicity of public policy, often evident in zones of conflict, is responsible for the thriving of low entrepreneurship supporting the enemy. This is due to a lack of adequate lending necessary for high investment to curb insecurity.
This analysis of the present state of insecurity in Nigeria and even the Covid19 pandemic has been largely at the macro-economic level. Growth projections and the incipient recession, inflation, and unemployment are the implications of inappropriate policies. The impact of insecurity and the destruction of the middle class in the rural economy is yet to be appreciated. Recently, some states approached the federal government asking for money to shore up security in the states, in spite of amplifying their tax collection to boost resources. Sadly, rural tax is evidence of insensitivity to the plight of the rural poor worsened by the ravages of war. Government tax policy that ignores the negative relationship between insecurity and war-inspired bankruptcy is the handiwork of neophytes. Taxes are for the living. A special tax policy should be evolved for the rural dweller in times of war or unrest.
According to Amnesty International, so far, bandits have killed 1,126 and abducted over 400 Nigerians in seven states of Northern Nigeria. That meant so many thriving enterprises have been wiped out. Unfortunately, we are still unable to identify those behind Boko Haram, the killer herdsmen, and the bandits with our DSS, NIA, NPF, DMI, and the Defence Intelligence Agency. Rebuilding broken bridges serve no respite without knowing the identity and the location of those who broke them. With some two-term governors disclosing that they met ethnic cleansing in their states, it may well mean we are facing premeditated unrest in the country which we are loath to unravel.